Friday, April 2, 2010

Buddha Relics Controversy

About a month ago, i made two posts on Vietnam welcoming 3 Buddha Relics from India as it was a rather big event in Vietnam. Today, this holy event unfortunately has turned into a controversy. It all started from an article in a newspaper where its author questioned the need of excessive spendings by the organising committee for the event.

A delegation of more than 100 memebers, consisting of monks and officials was sent to India by a chartered plane, belonging to Vietnam Airlines to collect the relics and was back in Vietnam on the very same day. Upon reaching Vietnam, the relics were carried by monks in 3 rented luxurious limousines ( Cadillac and Hummers ) from the airport to a temple in Ninh Binh province where the relics would be placed. These three limousines were accompanied by a convoy of more than 1000 vehicles to the temple.

The author questioned the wisdom of spending so much money for the whole event ( 1 million Vietnamese dongs or about USD58,000 ). If Buddha himself abandoned his royal palace to seek enlightenment as a poor monk, how could his followers justify being so extravagant in their spending. The cost of renting just one Hummer a day would be enough to build a simple house for a poor family, the article stated. It was later revealed that a prominent businessman who wished to remain anonymous had donated USD100,000 for this cause.

Many parties have come to the defense of the organiser. They said that the relics are sacred in Buddhism which deserved utmost respect and a dignified welcoming ceremony for the relics must not be viewed as an exageeration. The ceremony wasn't a private affair involving just a few monks but of national importance. It was also to show the gratitude and appreciation of Vietnamese people to India for giving away the much sacred relics to Vietnam. Apart from this, factors like punctuality and security also needed to be taken into consideration.

Some also drew comparison with events held in other countries like the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics and China's National Day celebration as well as the inauguration ceremony of President Obama where millions of dollars were spent.They said that these events have brought a sense of pride to the Chinese and American people which cannot be measured in any monetary term. The welcoming ceremony for the Buddha relics was no different. Vietnamese people who are mostly Buddhist feel honoured to be given the much sacred relics by India to be enshriend in a Vietnamese monastery. More than 15,000 Vietnamese Buddhist gathered at the temple to welcome the relics and the ceremony was also shown in Thailand and Taiwan.

Last but not least, they said that the money spent was not from any public or government funds but solely from public donation. They cited that Buddhism encourages sharing and donating for a good cause but it does not dictate any particular amount in doing so.

OK, now my opinion.

I have to agree with the article. I think the organiser had overspent. Eventhough i do agree that the relics deserved a dignified welcoming ceremony and a certain grandeur to it but I do not see the need of sending such a big delegation to India to collect the relics. I think sending a much smaller delegation and putting them in 1st Class on a normal commercial flight would have been good enough, there was no need to charter a flight. On the limousines, if the organiser really wanted to use limousines then one would have been enough to ferry the few monks who carried the relics. Other accompanying officials could travel in normal vehicles. I do agree with the organiser to hold a grand welcome ceremony for the much sacred relics ( which i think it should be ) but a grand ceremony must not always be extravagant. A grand ceremony could still be held without excessive spendings.Buddha relics have travelled around the world but as far as i am concerned, other countries did not spent that much of money on ceremonies to welcome the relics.

Having said that, i hope by now this controversy has already been laid to rest. Perhaps organisers of such event should be more vigilant in their spendings in the future